My Style: Denim Vest

by - June 07, 2023

If you've been a reader of my blog for awhile, then you're well acquainted with my love for a denim vest. It is my absolute favorite completer piece, especially since where I live it's too hot to wear a jean jacket two-thirds of the year.

Back in 2020, I talked about vests in general, but I've never done a post focused solely on denim vests (my favorite accessory. So let's do this!

Denim vests come in a ton of styles. From fitted to oversized, cropped to long, clean or distressed, embellished or plain, not to mention all the different washes, there's literally a style out there for everyone. As for me, I prefer a cropped, classic cut so I don't have to worry about it going out of style.

My vest is five years old, at least. It is a sturdy denim material that doesn't have a lot of stretch to it. It's square cut, so not fitted, with smaller arm holes so they aren't gaping open. Like I mentioned before, I prefer cropped styles because of my height. This one is cropped, but because I'm so short, it still hits at my natural waist. It has traditional buttons and a button-closure breast pocket on each side. It's dark-wash denim and has no embellishments.

What I love about my denim vest is its versatility. You can style these with almost any outfit, especially casual ones. I don't typically wear mine with pants or shorts, but that's honestly because I'm more likely to be wearing a dress or skirt, especially in warm or hot weather.

So let's look at how I style my denim vest with skirts and dresses.

With a Skirt

Sometimes, a skirt outfit feels like it's missing something. Usually this is because the outfit lacks balance, especially if your skirt is printed and your top is basic. A vest will help add visual interest to the top half of your outfit and help it to feel more equal to the bottom half. Let me show you.


This blue floral print skirt is one of my favorites, but it can be a little overwhelming on its own. The skirt is nice and full, the print is busy, and it reaches all the way to my ankles. Clearly, the skirt is my focal point for this outfit, so I try to keep things simple up top with solid colors that blend with the colors of the print. However, just a tank or t-shirt didn't feel like enough for either of these outfits.

Consider the all-blue version on the left of your screen. First of all, this is one of my favorite ways to pull off a monochromatic look. My tank top has a subtle striped texture to it and an interesting shoulder detail, but because it is almost the exact same shade of blue as the skirt, I felt kind of like a blur. The darker denim of the vest helped add a contrasting color while not breaking up the monochromatic theme.

In the second picture, I chose a pale yellow t-shirt to bring out the subtle hints of yellow in the skirt's pattern. The outfit still felt incomplete, though, and the shirt felt like a blaring beacon. In other words, it was too bright on its own. The vest helped to tie the unexpected pop of color into the blue tones of the skirt, creating a more cohesive look overall.

This is another favorite skirt. A lot of times I wear this with a graphic tee, but in this case I reached for a light pink basic t-shirt. The end result was just a little blah. The t-shirt was too close of a match to the lighter pink hues of the skirt's pattern. In other words, it didn't stand out enough, leaving this outfit feeling very bottom heavy. My denim vest helped add structure and weight to the top half for a more balanced effect.

With Long Dresses

This might be my favorite way to wear a denim vest. Longer dresses, especially maxi dresses, tend to swallow me, especially if they are loose and flowy. A vest can be used to add structure and define your waist. This can be done in a couple of different ways. Take a look.


This dress is one of my favorite maxi dresses ever, but on its own can be a bit underwhelming for my shorter stature. It does not have a defined waist and can hide what few curves I actually have. That's where my vest comes into play.

The first look is one I wore to a spring festival recently. It was warm enough for sleeveless but not spaghetti straps. I didn't feel like adding a belt, so I buttoned the bottom 2-3 buttons of the vest to create a shirt-like silhouette. This gave me a defined waist and helped to break up the dress so that the rule of thirds was actually in play.

For the second look, I let a belt do the waist defining. The outfit still felt unbalanced though, so I used my vest to give the top half more structure. It gives the impression of a shirt-and-skirt combination, creating that rule of thirds that helps outfits feel balanced.

This dress is the same style as the previous one, just in a different color and pattern. I wanted to show you how the vest can help break up this style of dress without adding in a waist-cinching accessory.

This dress is fitted at the top before flaring out at the bottom, so it already has a defined waist (even if it's really high on this dress). It was still pretty cool when I wore this dress, so I needed sleeves. I layered a basic light purple tee underneath the dress. It was a nice match to some of the purple in the dress's pattern but felt too light. So I added the denim vest to better tie the purple into the dress's darker hues and then bookended the outfit with navy flats.


Both of these dresses are similar in style. They both have a defined waist (the orange is a looser definition than the blue). With each of these, I'm pretty sure I just wanted my shoulders covered.

This dress is actually strapless with a smocked bodice. I've worn it a ton of ways, but I wanted to show you how a vest can work with this style of dress as well.

With Short Dresses

Most of my shorter dresses are of the loose and flowy variety, which means my waist often gets lost. As with longer dresses, a vest adds structure, helps define your waist, and creates the rule of thirds.


These are actually the same dress, just in different colors. They technically do have a defined waist, but because there's no distinction in the patterns from top to bottom, it's not super noticeable.

With the first version, the colors are very pale and almost blend with my skin. The vest helps add a darker contrasting color so that it balances the dress a little better. It also marks where my waist is. The concept with the second version is the same but reversed. The pattern is very dark, so in this case the vest adds a lighter contrasting color to give more structure to the top third of the dress.

Last but not least we have a tried-and-true outfit formula that I've been wearing for years. This black-and-white striped dress is one of the oldest in my closet. It has no defining features outside of the stripes other than some cute little flutter sleeves. On its own, the dress is pretty shapeless. Adding a vest gives the top third structure, pinpoints my waist, and creates a balanced, complete look.

Would you wear a denim vest?

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